Cal Poly (13-19) vs. Texas Southern (19-14)

03/19/2014 7:37 AM

03/19/2014 7:42 AM

GAME NOTES: The Cal Poly Mustangs and Texas Southern Tigers will square off in an NCAA Tournament first-round contest at UD Arena to determine which squad will garner the 16th seed in the Midwest Region of the bracket and advance to the round of 64.

The winner moves on to play top-seeded and unbeaten Wichita State in the second round of the tournament.

Cal Poly will try to extend its Cinderella story by moving past Texas Southern into the field of 64. The Mustangs made it through the Big West Conference Tournament with wins over UC Santa Barbara, top-seeded UC Irvine and a title game victory over Cal State Northridge, 61-59.

Texas Southern went in as one of the favorites to take the Southwestern Athletic Conference title after having won its final six regular-season contests. The Tigers then went through Grambling State, Alabama State and Prairie View, 78-73, in the SWAC championship game.

This is the first-ever meeting between these teams on the hardwood.

Cal Poly, which had never been to the NCAA Tournament prior to this season, trailed Cal State Northridge in the Big West championship game at the half, 29-25. But the Mustangs made a comeback run in the second period, and slowly chipped away at the lead until they were the ones on top. Chris Eversley and Dave Nwaba, who have been the consistent go-to players this season, led the way once again. Eversley scored 18 points on 8-of-17 shooting, and Nwaba tallied 17 points with six rebounds and three blocked shots. Ridge Shipley added 14 points off the bench in the win.

Eversley enters the postseason as one of two players for Cal Poly averaging a double-digit point total. Eversley tallies 13.6 ppg, and brings down a team- best 7.1 rpg with 43 steals on the year. Nwaba adds 11.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg and 18 blocked shots for the Mustangs, who average 63.2 ppg and allow 63.4 ppg to opponents through 32 games played. Jamal Johnson has dished out a team-best 90 assists, and Joel Awich has blocked 31 shots on the season.

Texas Southern used a comeback effort in the second half of the SWAC championship game to end Prairie View's Cinderella run. The Panthers led at the half, 38-31, before Texas Southern sprang into action. The Tigers outscored Prairie View, 47-35, in the second half en route to the five-point victory. Aaric Murray notched a double-double with 27 points and 10 rebounds, adding a team-best four blocked shots. Madarious Gibbs netted 15 points with five assists, Jose Rodriguez scored 13 points and D'Angelo Scott chipped in with 10 points and five rebounds. Texas Southern shot 64.7 percent in the second half.

Murray has proven he's one of the better big men in the SWAC, and certainly one of the top scorers in the league. He enters the NCAA Tournament averaging 21.2 ppg to lead the team, netting 48.5 percent of his shots from the floor. He tops the squad in rebounding as well with 7.7 rpg, also registering a team- best 85 blocked shots. D'Aris Scarver is second in scoring at 13.3 ppg, and Rodriguez tallies 11.3 ppg for the Tigers. Gibbs comes into the game averaging a team-leading 5.2 apg mark, and Scott (6.1 rpg) and Rodriguez (5.7 rpg) contribute to a strong rebounding team. Texas Southern averages 76.2 ppg and gives up 73.7 ppg to opponents.

Whichever team makes it through this round has not only the near-impossible task of facing a one-seed, but is matched up with the unbeaten Shockers. Cal Poly had a great run in the Big West Tournament that included some strong defensive efforts, but Texas Southern is simply too good offensively to bow out to the Mustangs, who won't have an answer for Murray in the post.

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